About Me

I look down on the garbage dump from my second-story apartment and ponder. How did I, born in Hollywood, end up in Beit Hanina, a 9-square mile section of East Jerusalem? Claimed by both Palestinians and Israelis as their capital, Jerusalem lives in relentless ambiguity.

I guess I always sought out the “in-between.” After high school, I ran as far away as I could get – Egypt. Studying in Cairo from 1983-1984 was transformational, yes, but also disruptive. How can anyone see the world one way again, after seeing it from the eyes of a Nubian doorman, an old Egyptian Jew, an Ethiopian migrant worker, a freed Palestinian political prisoner, and so many more? In all these people, I saw myself.

It was in 1984 in Haifa that I met the love of my life (who is sometimes a thorn in my side) and we lived nearly twenty years around Boston, Massachusetts. I was assistant professor of cross-cultural understanding at Bentley University, adjunct faculty at Lesley University, and facilitated antiracism, intercultural relations and organizational change with community groups, hospitals, grantmakers, government agencies and corporations. Some of this work was through a consulting company I founded, The Leagora Group, and some as a diversity curriculum designer for J. Howard & Associates. I was also the corporate cultural competence strategist for Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. Previously, I had a number of activist jobs doing anti-war, feminist, and youth organizing. During the first Intifada (Palestinian uprising), I was coordinator of the Cambridge Ramallah/ElBireh Sister City Campaign.

During those years, I completed my doctorate from Fielding University in Santa Barbara, California focused on social change and structural inequality; a Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Relations from Lesley University, with an emphasis on conflict management and training; and a master’s degree in Human Services from Fielding University which I added to my Bachelor of Arts degree in Middle East Studies from UCLA. I have also had several fellowships, including with Synergos Institute, the Palestinian American Research Center, and Northeastern University’s Middle East Center.

We moved to Palestine in 2004 so that our three daughters could grow up as comfortable and competent in their father’s Palestinian village as they already were in American suburbia. Actually, American suburbia had changed post-9/11. A generalized insecurity wafted through our schools, neighborhoods and media. When my oldest daughter asked, “Mommy, why do you make me be Arab when you don’t have to be?” we knew the United States shouldn’t be the only place our daughters consider “home.”

My husband took at job with the United Nations and I started consulting with Palestinian nongovernmental organizations, international NGOs, and UN agencies doing participatory research, strategic planning, community development, donor communications, capacity assessments, impact evaluations, fundraising, and other projects.

My immediate, profound shock at the distortions in Palestinian civil society caused by dependence on international aid led me to found Dalia Association (www.Dalia.ps), the first Palestinian community foundation, which I directed from 2006 to 2010. Dalia Association seeks to reduce dependence on international aid by reforming the international aid system; promoting local, diaspora and private sector philanthropy; and running “community-controlled grantmaking” programs that enhance civil society’s accountability to local communities. Dalia Association is one of my greatest accomplishments.

Yes, I have lived a thousand lives. I’ve visited the saints in Escipulas, Guatemala, frozen in the Chinese winter on a boat in Guiling, and smelled the legacy of slavery in the arid air of Namibia. Now, in midlife, I am surprised to find myself still hungry. I hunger for a kind of intimacy that writing fiction offers. My characters need me. Their problems implicate me. Telling their stories is both a duty and an honor.

Contact me at nora [at] noralestermurad [dot] com!

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48 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Liz says:

    Hi Nora,
    I just watched you talk on Gaza, and I want to thank you for educating me. I have been studying everything I can find on the subject and when you said ‘How can there be security (for Israelis) when there is oppression?’ summed it all up for me..

    It is a difficult subject! I also read a great quote this week, how can the eyes see when the heart is blind. I am truly amazed how many Israelis dont care about life for ‘their second class citizens’.
    I believe the world is waking up to the Palestinians situation.

    May each side live in Peace, and all be treated equally..

    Thank you x

  2. Zerit Haile says:

    I admire you for standing up with the victims. Hope Palestinians and Jew can live in peace

    • Nora Lester Murad says:

      Me too!

      • Saar says:

        Hi Nora. I think you would have a very interesting take on the events. I am amazed however that you don’t seem to think Hamas should take any blame. As an Israeli living in a self critical country that is looking to improve itself and contribute to the world, I hear many voices about the current conflict and the ongoing conflict between Palestinian and Israeli nations. I hear voices from the left and right within Israel, but funny how when it comes to Palestinians like yourself, you seem to offer only one narrative. Unfortunately, thinking people don’t buy it. They read Hamas literature, they hear their leaders wrath, their school curriculum, and feel their rocket attacks clearly aimed at civilian areas. Do you really think that Israel is going to sit and allow its citizens to be killed by terrorists. Do you honestly believe that if Israel really believed it had a partner it would not love to coexist with its neighbors. You baffle me, because you seem to be educated and critical. But are so blinded by your hate, you won’t admit the truth. I wish you the best of luck and I hope that your people find a way to elect leaders who really care about their future and not just bent on destruction.

      • Nora Lester Murad says:

        I am very very critical of Hamas and all Palestinian leaders. I am MORE critical of Israel because Israel is a state, and is funded by my tax dollars. I am American, not Palestinian. I focus on my own responsibility as an American. Do you focus on your own responsibility as an Israeli?

  3. Jacquiline Hetherington says:

    Hi Nora,
    Just watched R.T. Noticed the Professor stomped off, obviously the truth is too terrible to confront. Thank goodness for voices of reason and honesty from you and your fellow speaker, not forgetting Peter Lavelle whose straight talking is a breath of fresh air. Voices like yours are vital when so much spin and lies abound.
    Good Luck

    • Nora Lester Murad says:

      Thanks Jacquiline, but how to reach people who aren’t already convinced? How to shake free those who are already captive to the spin?

    • Megan says:

      Actually, I felt the Israeli professor was being bullied by the obnoxious host and it’s a shame that he was shut down. Peace will never happen if people can’t even have a civil conversation.

      • Nora Lester Murad says:

        I agree. I had a lot of things I wanted to talk to him about and was disappointed when he left.

  4. moshe says:

    Ms Nora Lester Murad;
    I am an Israeli since 1970 when I made aliyah from the USA

    May I wish you long life and best health ?

    On the other hand you are the opposite of my Jewish wife and my daughters, so please consider how difficult these well wishes were to write.

    All my daughters gave years of their youth to serving in the IDF, (luckily) unhurt physically or emotionally…discharged
    with honor

    1. pal-Israeli conflict has produced many misconceptions
    on both sides.

    2. ham and hiz have tries their best to destroy and murder Israeli civilians only to be answered by the IDF, which has
    caused great damage to ham/hiz infrastructure…at the cost of hurting and killing some pal or Lebanese civilians.

    NO Israeli explanation is needed for the IDF unproportional reply …No Israeli explanation can justify IDF actions/errors that caused innocents to suffer.

    I find it strange that (normal) Jewish people act as you have
    done.

    May the pal rocket and guided missiles; the pal hand made bombs and the pal knifings; the pal treachery/BDS NEVER reach your door or your loved ones.

    moshe
    observerms@gmail.com
    ——————————————————-

    • Nora Lester Murad says:

      Hi Moshe. I appreciate your comments and would like to reply, but I don’t think I fully grasp what you’re saying. It seems like you’re contradicting yourself. But throughout you seem to be concerned about harm to people, and that is a concern we share. I hope we’ll find our way to a just peace where everyone can be safe and free.

  5. Barry Rosen says:

    Nora are you going to be a human shield for Hamas?

    http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/united-with-israel/palestinian-journalist-blames-hamas-for-problems-in-gaza/2013/06/30/?src=ataglance
    Palestinian Journalist Blames Hamas for Problems In Gaza

    “I feel even sorrier today for the people in Gaza as Hamas is pulling a publicity stunt with their blood.”
    Rachel Avraham
    June 30th, 2013

    Palestinian journalist Mudar Zahran claims the Hamas government in Gaza is corrupt, abuses its people and is to blame when Israel is forced to air-strike terrorist targets.

    Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian Palestinian political activist and writer who calls for peace with Israel, has emphasized that he believes Hamas is responsible for all qassam rockets fired into Israeli territory, even when the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or another group is the one taking responsibility. While noting that there are disagreements between the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, especially in the wake of the present crisis in Syria, Zahran still believes that Hamas permits the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to wage attacks against Israel from Gazan territory for it is in their interest to do so.

    “Having a confrontation between Gaza and Israel is good business for Hamas, who makes a lot of money off of the deprivation of average people in Gaza. Hamas is to blame for every thing that happens in Gaza. They don’t care for the blood and humanity of their people,” Zahran claims. “Hamas is creating a situation where scarcity and poverty help make people submit. This is nightmarish. The only job Gazans can have is joining Hamas.”

    800px-Yasin_Rantisi_Hamas_Wahlkampf
    Yet at the same time, Zahran has emphasized that due to the rise of President Morsi in Egypt and the international political situation, it is better for Hamas if the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and not them, gets the credit for initiating the violence. According to Zahran, “Hamas is not about Islam any more but business and investment. It is a true dictatorship. It is willing to sell its own Islamist values for the sake of money if the right price is offered.”

    He continued, “People should realize that Hamas has changed. Hamas now wants interest, whenever they can find it. They will give in for whoever they are getting money. Hamas leaders now have a lot to lose if they are killed or attacked. They have houses, German cars, millions of dollars.” For this reason, Hamas gives the Palestinian Islamic Jihad the green light to operate against Israel, while refraining from taking actions on their own, so all Israeli retaliations will affect the Palestinian Islamic Jihad more than them, while the blockade works to distract the Palestinian people from Hamas’ oppression and to consolidate Hamas rule over Gaza.

    Mudar Zahran in a conference
    Zahran claimed, “I feel even sorrier today for the people in Gaza as Hamas is pulling a publicity stunt with their blood. Ultimately Gazans are paying the ultimate price for Hamas arrogance, ignorance and stupidity.” He continued, “Every year, Israelis should expect a couple of occasions where Hamas attacks, which shows how little value Hamas has for its own people when Israel counter-attacks. Even if I was an Islamist or pro-Hamas, it would be very stupid to send a rocket that rarely causes damage to receive F-16’s in return. They hide in the bunker and let their own people suffer.”

    Zahran concluded, “The world should do something to counter Hamas as it is just like al Qaeda, willing to butcher its own people. I cry for anyone hurt from my people but I take the blame on Hamas and Hamas only.” Zahran believes there is no military solution to the Gazan problem. He suggests empowering moderates in Gaza to overthrow Hamas by getting an outside entity to provide Gazans with jobs and the economic means to throw off the yoke of Hamas. He believes that should this happen, Hamas could be overthrown within a few years.

    • Nora Lester Murad says:

      Hi Barry. I am not going to be a human shield for Hamas. Does that answer all your questions?

  6. Ramy says:

    Hey Nora,

    I have noticed you are interested about recycling initiatives in Gaza, Palestine. I am a Gazan who founded a regional initiative to promote recycling in the MENA region. You can know more about my work by visiting Zero Waste MENA website http://www.zerowastemena.org

    I wrote one article before about the challenges Gaza face in the waste management sector

    http://www.slideshare.net/ramy99/gazas-challenge

    and one more about the MENA region in general

    http://www.zerowastemena.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/rwm-mena-region.html

    If you need any further sources, please drop me an email

    Regards
    Rami

    • Nora Lester Murad says:

      Rami, thanks so much for sharing this information. I know a lot of people will be interested in looking up your website and, hopefully, supporting your work. I’m going to check it out right now!

  7. Carl Zaisser says:

    Hi Nora,
    Hope things are well enough. It’s a measure of how difficult things are that when Kerry breezes through for a few hours and makes a public comment, despite actually NOT doing anything to make things change, that all the settlements are illegitimate, it somehow feels uplifting. Not sure how that feels where you are.

    I wonder if you can help me with something. I am having a house built on a Greek island. It’s kind of an investment instead of letting retirement money just sit in a bank account. A financial investment, but also an investment in a lifelong dream. From the east and southeast coast of this island, Karpathos, there is nothing across the Mediterranean until one comes to Egypt and Palestine (okay, Israel too).

    I wonder if you could shop for me for a traditional Palestinian woman’s dress. I have in mind the traditional black with mainly red embroidery, but am open so something else also that is aesthetically appealing. I don’t know how the post is out of Israel to Austria. I guess I could wire the money, if you found something, from my bank account to yours. Anyway, consider this a bit, and let me know if you can do some shopping for me.

    Still reading tons of books. Currently reading a book recommended in one of Norman Finkelstein’s books, on the details of the Nazi scene and how it affected the DEvolution to the ‘final solution’, Arno Mayer’s “Why Did the Heavens not Darken”.

    Hope you, Hani, and family are well.
    Carl

  8. Eman shatara says:

    I just came across your blog and just wanted to let you know you are such an inspiration. I’m moving to Ramallah in a one week and I’m feeling so anxious. We live in the states and now feel its time to take our 4 boys there to experience life, culture, family and traditions. I hope this will be a great experience for them. And I also hope that I meet people just like you.

  9. Laura O'Neill says:

    Hello Nora, what an interesting story!
    Having also once met the love of my life from Haifa, I was drawn to your story, however a tragic accident split the two of us apart and ended my potential story down that path. It is nice to see that you have located your family to Jerusalem, however the comment of your daughter about being an Arab struck an eerie chord with me. Children always seem to see the world through eyes that candidly reflect the madness of adult societies.
    Thanks for your blog.
    Laura.

  10. Seems like you actually know quite a lot pertaining to this particular issue and that exhibits as a result of this particular posting, termed “About Me | Nora Lester Murad”.
    Thanks ,Alvin

  11. Mike says:

    I worry you are fixating on one component of the problem (and proposing a solution) in a way that further compromises the victims. There may be a way to avoid adding more weight onto the backs of those carrying the heaviest burden. This requires us all to think critically about ways to empower the victims of Israeli/US economic, military, political, physical occupation of Palestinian life, rather than run the risk of almost blaming those rationally choosing an opportunity for an income and a slightly better life by taking or working for international aid.

    All mainstream participants (International NGO’s, human rights groups) working to claim some efforts in Palestine have “benevolent Zionists” among their donors. It is not an accident that the recipients of these donations are less likely to rock the boat when they know their money is coming from donors (or entire government entities) who get “concerned” about some kinds of behavior (including public education and marketing messaging).

    As one component to a larger strategy of educating the public, promoting BDS globally and supporting smaller groups who are doing the same and taking other actions to end the occupation and help Palestinians, I would turn to the folks at the highest levels of these compromised mainstream organizations and require that the sacrifice start with them. Cut out funding from those with direct links to the skewed/biased politics of the occupiers requiring you to make allowances for (or keep silent about) Israeli expansion, occupation, oppression, harassment, Apartheid and endless violations of international law.

    I would present this rewarding outcome: stop taking your funding from them and watch what happens. The world knows the truth about Israel/Palestine and they are ready to reward all groups who have the courage to stand up strongly and uncompromisingly for human rights. They will reward you.

    Saying this means expecting more from the leadership of every group claiming to do good work in Palestine. It even means educating their Western staff about what it means to be uncompromisingly for human rights, working to end to the occupation of Palestine, and to be critical of Israel.

    In the end, the goal is to empower the people you are helping, not by telling them how to help themselves in a rigged system, but by helping them win their case against the people trampling on their chances of survival.

    Also, there are plenty of very good and useful individuals within the international aid and human rights groups working to help Palestinians and influence a detachment from funding that constrains them. We shouldn’t discourage the folks doing that good work, but, again, seek ways to empower. INMHO

    • admin says:

      Hi Mike, assuming that you’re replying to my articles about boycotting aid (Oct. 2012), then I think you and I are actually quite close in position. All I’m saying is that Palestinians should consider rejecting aid that comes with detrimental conditions, and I’ve shared a draft of criteria we can use to distinguish at http://www.noralestermurad.com/2012/10/18/draft-criteria/. Would love your further comments on that page.

  12. Sam Eisenstein says:

    We were delighted to meet your family when you were in Pasadena. The time was all too short. The world needs so many more people like you.

    • admin says:

      Thank you so much, Sam. You are dear friends and have been, despite our years without communication, for 35 years! Imagine that!

  13. Alondra Miller says:

    Hi Nora,

    Wow and to think I knew you when. Your writing is wonderful, and you paint such a colorful picture. I would love to read your fiction when you get around to it. Until then I will keep reading your blog and can’t wait to see you in July!

  14. Gillian Lewis says:

    Nora,

    So glad I finally clicked on your link on FB and then subscribed to your blog. I too love the way you write and am proud to have spent time with you in the early 80s, before you headed out into that great big world to do and see SO much.

    I am very good friends with a lovely young woman who struggled with the prejudice of having a Palestinian father. She, and each of her siblings, had spent at least a year in Palestine with their father. She had many interesting stories to tell.

    I am so grateful that having raised my children as Unitarian Universalists, they were exposed to many different cultures and religions. I taught religious education a few times while my kids were growing up. I most enjoyed the year that I taught the curriculum on world religions. We visited a mosque in Corvallis, Oregon in 2002. The kids got a unique perspective from the young women of the mosque, who told what it was like to go to school with angry, distrustful Christians in the post 9/11 atmosphere.

    I look forward to reading more of your writing. I am proud to know you!

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your wonderful encouragement. My high school years feel like another world to me, but here you are, commenting on a blog I write about my daily life today. Things do come full circle somehow. I am pleased to be back in touch and appreciate your sharing your own experiences. I hope you’ll share more.

  15. Hi Nora

    I really like reading your writings.

    I wish that I had got to know you better when we were working together. Also I should have come to see you last month when I was in Jerusalem/Ramallah.

    There will be a next time!!

  16. Anwaar Jabr says:

    Hi Nora,

    I really enjoyed reading this blog, I love your thoughts and I love how diverse they are. It’s true that I haven’t met met you in person, but I am very proud that I know someone like you. I would love to read more and more of your work :)

    Anwaar

  17. Amira says:

    Hi Nora,
    This is a lovely blog! I came across it after reading your post on Arabic Lit (in English). I had read about the Dalia Association and really admired it.. now coming to think of it, I might even have met you in Cairo at a conference some time ago. If my memory is not as rusty as I believe it is, you might even have given me a brochure and talked to me about the association.
    I look forward to reading more and more posts from you.

    • admin says:

      Thanks so much, Amira. I’m so glad to have you as a subscriber! Please do help me spread the word, and I hope you’ll be active in sharing your experiences.

  18. Basma AbuSway says:

    Hi Nora

    I love your writing, so interesting and saying too much in an amazing way.

    thanks for sharing it with me.

  19. Raquel "Rocky" Sanchez says:

    Hi Nora,
    It’s so great to read about your life and perspective on your blog. In some ways, you are in the same place you were when I saw you last – looking on the bright side and finding ways to help. I’d love to meet your girls someday. I’m living in Pasadena and have a 5-year old daughter. Maybe we’ll make a trip to Palestine someday. Let me know when you are in the U.S. My work takes me all over the country, so maybe coincidence will bring us together somewhere soon.

    • admin says:

      Rocky! So nice to connect with you after so long. I’m glad you find the blog interesting. Please share your experiences and opinions, too.

  20. Waad says:

    This is so great, Nora. Thanks for sharing with me and keep writing!

  21. H.Rogers says:

    Hello,
    So interesting! I’m really enjoying your blog. Your description of Palestine is priceless. I’ll be checking back often to ‘experience’ your experience;)

    • admin says:

      Thanks and please share your experience, too. With lots of different perspectives, we begin to get closer to the many truths. Don’t ya think?

  22. Amanda says:

    Hi, I just stumbled across your blog on an average Saturday afternoon, and usually I don’t post on things such as this, but I find your blog fascinating. As well as your perspective. See, I am pursuing a relationship with a first generation American-Palestinian who’s father was born in Ramallah. I at first was hesitant to have anything to do with the Arab culture because of the stereotypes the media push as I am a red headed strong willed woman, but I absolutely love the culture. They are some of the kindest people I know and definitely the most hospitable. The american culture is quite bland, rude, and stuck up in comparison. But you definitely have a wealth of information regarding that part of the world. Do you have any advice and tips to make blending cultures a bit easier, at least for my family, who have slowly been warming to the idea of dating a Paletstian?

    • admin says:

      I wish you lots of luck in your relationship, Amanda. I think all relationships take luck as well as hard work. I’m glad you’re loving the culture, and through you (and your love), others will let their guard down and open up. It is so sad that racism and stereotypes and fear get in the way of seeing one another as human beings. As for tips, I can’t think of anything that can be shared in a comment, but I’ll contact you by email and we can share experiences. I can say that in my 30-year relationship, cultural differences have brought both challenges and rewards, but overall, I think gender differences have been an even bigger source of conflict. I wonder if that’s true for others “out there” too?

  23. Vicki Tamoush says:

    Habibti Nora, I don’t have adequate words to tell you how much I admire you for the way you are living your life. May all you do be blessed.
    (P.S. There’s something about that picture of you at the wall that reminds me so much of your mom and her own courage, decades of it, speaking truth to power.)

    • admin says:

      Such nice words about me and my mom, who is, truly, a model. And YOU are a model for me and so many. I hope you’ll be willing to write about your experiences with Christian-Muslim-Jewish interfaith dialogue here on my blog. Everyone needs to know about the work you do.

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